THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OF 1882
With the influx of Chinese immigrant workers, Americans began to blame them for lowering wages and causing economic troubles on the West Coast. As a result, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 into law, banning Chinese workers from immigrating to the United States for ten years. It was the first U.S. law to put a restriction on the immigration of one group. Chinese residents who were not laborers and wanted to enter the U.S., such as a diplomatic agent, had to receive official certification from the Chinese government proving their status. Those who were already living in the U.S. would need new certifications to reenter the country if they left. Those living in the U.S. who were not citizens were denied the right to become citizens, facing the possibility of deportation.
Once the ban reached its 10-year mark in 1892, Congress passed the Geary Act: a U.S. law that extended the Chinese Exclusion Act for 10 more years and added new restrictions. One was the requirement for Chinese immigrants to obtain a Certificate of Residence to prove that they were legal immigrants, or else they faced the possibility of deportation. Congress continued to update their quotas (official restrictions on the number/percentage of people from a certain group being allowed to do something) as well as their requirements for immigration, expanding their lists of countries to include all of Asia. In 1902, immigration from China was ruled illegal.
It was not until 1943 that Congress revoked all the exclusion acts, and Chinese immigrants were given the right to become citizens. This was due to China’s support of the Allied Nations during World War II. However, there was still a yearly cap of 105 Chinese immigrants to the U.S.
AAPI TREATMENT TODAY
Discrimination toward people of Asian descent runs deep in America’s history, and as a result, the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community has experienced harassment, discrimination, violence, and hate in the United States. After the COVID-19 outbreak, there was an increase in AAPI hate. Fueled by xenophobia, racism, and ignorance, some blamed the AAPI communities for the global pandemic. Since then, there has been an increase in AAPI hate crimes. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 124% in the year 2020, and by 339% in 2021.
In response to this increase, the coalition Stop AAPI Hate was formed on March 19, 2020. The coalition is made up of AAPI Equity Alliance, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University. The coalition “tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”
Having familiarized yourself with the historical context that frames the narrative of Exclusion, you are now prepared for its powerful impact. By exploring the often-neglected narratives of Chinese-American history, this play sheds light on important aspects of our collective past. Come experience this “thought-provoking and witty world premiere” (BroadwayWorld) for yourself. Tickets are now available. Exclusion runs through June 25.